They Believed Us


They were only babies. Still missing teeth. Still sleeping with fluffy toys.

They were little ones. They trusted the grown ups, as little ones do.

They woke up on that cold morning, just like every other morning in their short lives. “Eat your breakfast,” the grownups said. “It will keep you healthy and strong.” They believed the grownups, so they ate.

“Put on this nice warm sweater,” the grownups said. “It will protect you from the cold.” They put on their sweaters, trusting that the grownups were right.

That was how their lives had always been. “You need this shot, honey. It will protect you so you won’t get sick.” They got the shots, accepting their Mommys’ hugs and trusting that now they’d be safe. They climbed into their carseats. They buckled on their bike helmets.

The grownups promised to keep them safe. The little ones trusted.

They were only babies. They held Daddy’s hand as they walked to the bus stop that morning. They looked both ways before they crossed.

They listened to their teacher. When she told them to wash their hands carefully, and to scrub between their fingers, they did. “It will protect you from germs,” the grownup told them. They believed, and they did what they were told.

That cold morning, like every other morning, they gathered on the rug for morning meeting. They giggled with their friends. They wiggled and squirmed. They sang the Good Morning song.

“Be kind and be careful,” their teacher told them as they played. “This is a safe space for everyone.” They tried to be kind. They tried to be careful. They believed that they were in a safe space for everyone.

When the loud noises suddenly burst out that morning, they were confused. When the screaming started, they looked to their teacher.

She told them to gather together and stay quiet. Their eyes never left her as she ran to lock the door and turn out the lights.

She was a grownup. She would keep them safe. They trusted the grownups to protect them and keep them safe.

They trusted the adults.

But the door burst open, and hell came in the door. The grownup couldn’t keep them safe after all.

They were only babies. But they died in terror and blood and tears.

They were BABIES.

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Everyone of us failed these babies. Twenty little children died because we’ve allowed the NRA to buy our representatives.

Click right here to see the faces and names of the little ones who were murdered in their classroom.

Click right here to see how your Congresspeople are rated by the NRA.

 

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Pulling An All-nighter


When my three beloved babies grew up and moved out, I was devastated. Bereft. Heartbroken.

I told myself that I would spend the rest of my life missing every beautiful moment of motherhood. “Oh, woe is me!” I cried to the universe and my every patient husband, “How I will miss those little moments of mother love!”  I just knew, with every fiber of my overly emotional soul that I would miss EVERY SINGLE THING about spending time with little ones!

I was, of course, completely delusional.

In my grief over missing the hugs, kisses, and bedtime stories, I forgot about the fevers, tantrums and midnight pukies.

But guess what?

Now I remember!

Yesterday my grandkids were here, as they are every weekday while their parents work. Two year old Ellie wasn’t looking so good in the morning, as pale as milk and droopy eyed. She wanted extra hugs and snuggles, though, so I didn’t make too much of it. Her baby brother, the red cheeked, ever grinning Johnny, was as robust as ever.

Then their Mom texted to say she was heading home from work. She was sick herself, so could I keep the kids until the end of the work day? Of course I could! I was happy to watch my beautiful little ones so Momma could get over her norovirus. In fact, I had an inspiration!

“Why don’t we keep Ellie here for the night?” asked the generous and kind Nonni. I pictured us snuggled up under the covers, her arm around my neck. I pictured her eating breakfast and chatting with me and Papa. Visions of happiness danced in my head.

Mom and Dad agreed to my plan, with gratitude, and I cheerfully made dinner for Ellie, Papa and I. We ate, we baked butterscotch cookies. We watched a movie, got our pj’s on, and snuggled into bed.

Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. Right down to the goodnight kisses and that little arm around my neck.

Then reality pokes its grimy, nasty head into the room.

The little body next to me turned as hot as a stove. The arm around my neck became a vise. The “I love you, Nonnis” turned into “I want you to walk away RIGHT NOW!”

The next 9 hours consisted of taking her temperature (“OWWWWW!!!! YOU’RE HURTING ME!!!”), giving her Tylenol, (“I want MORE tasty medicine!!!!!”), and trying to decode the meaning of the sob coated screams (“PICK! UP! MY! BLGHRUMNAH!”)

Every once in a while, we’d both fall asleep, and then the neck choking and fever rantings would start again. Ellie would whimper, “I need water…” and I’d fumble around on the bedside table, invariably knocking over the water bottle. Plop myself out of bed, find the water, hand it to her, try to stay upright while she drank, put the water back.

Repeat.

Sometimes it would seem as if we’d been asleep for a while. When Ellie’s whimpers would start again, I’d think to myself, “It’s OK. We’ve probably been asleep for a few hours.” I’d fumble around for the phone and my glasses, and check the time.

“Gah!!! It’s only been 13 minutes!!”

That must have happened at least ten times. There was the time when I had to turn on a light to locate the missing Elmo (hiding from all the noise under the quilt). And the moment when she kicked me in the chin while trying to figure out why she was all turned around.

We made it until morning, when I was awakened by a warm cheek on mine. “Wake up time now, Nonni.”

It was a long and grueling night, that’s for damn sure. But I learned a few things during those uncomfortable hours.

I learned that there are definitely aspects of motherhood that I do not miss.

I learned that the old adage about grandparenting is true; one of the best parts is that you get to send them home.

I learned that taking care of little ones is a young woman’s game.

Now I’m sitting here in my flannel pants with a plate of butterscotch cookies, enjoying the silence and wondering how many naps is too many for one day.

 

Don’tch Wonder Who’s Concealing and Carrying?


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Not long ago, I went to my local grocery store on a busy Saturday morning. There was a man there who was blocking the aisle. He looked angry. He looked scary. He was dressed in scruffy clothes, had scraggly gray hair and a day’s worth of stubble on his scowling face.

I stood there awkwardly for a minute, but I wanted to get buy him and be on my way. I told myself not to be so judgmental. I cleared my throat and said, “Excuse me….?”

He looked up and smiled, revealing beautiful blue eyes and a disarming dimple. We had a short, friendly chat about the virtues of low fat ice cream, and I finished my shopping feeling great about the interaction.

But ya know what?

If that same thing had happened after the passage of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” that whole thing would have gone far differently. You know the bill I’m talking about, right?

The latest bit of NRA inspired insanity would allow anybody who can legally carry a concealed weapon in their home state can carry one in mine.

Which, of course, means that when strolling through my local store, I will have no idea if my fellow shoppers are armed.

So in the best case scenario on that recent shopping trip, I would have turned around and gone the other way. I wouldn’t have dared to talk to that scary looking old guy.

In the worst case scenario? I might have been carrying a concealed weapon myself. A loaded one. I might have felt threatened enough by his big bulky self blocking my way. I might have reacted with a jolt of fear, especially if the guy had his hand hear his pocket.

I might have feared for my life and I might have shot his face off.

Call me naiive, but I would very much like to continue meeting new people as I go through my days. I’d like to take my grandkids to the mall without worrying that the young guy with the shaking hands isn’t about to pull out his gun and start shooting us up.

#GunControlNow

Step By Step


One of the interesting parts of getting older, according to this aging Nonni, is gaining the ability to see the difference between reality and what people have perceived.

For example, I remember my childhood with so much warmth and love. My family was never, ever perfect (uh, we were humans, right?) but we did our best. My parents were first generation Americans with a strong Italian immigrant flavor. We grew up with pasta on Sundays, red wine in the glasses, lunches made of salami and provolone.

Our parents were dealing with all of the pressures of the 1950’s. Dad had served in the Army in WWII. Mom had grown up as the oldest child in an Italian immigrant family, and she gave up her dream of becoming an artist because that’s what women did in the 1950s. She got married. She gave birth to six of us. She raised us while my Dad worked days and studied at night.

We were unremarkable.

We were an American family in the years that followed the second great war. We were polite, we were respectful, we were good students.

We were NOT ever perfect.

The six of us learned how to push back against our parents when the Beatles hit these shores. We lobbied hard for long hair (the boys) and short skirts (the girls). We argued. We fought. We yelled at each other about the Vietnam War and the peace movement and the supposedly incomprehensible lyrics of rock songs.

But we were a unit. Six kids. Six attractive, healthy kids. Well loved by our parents, even when they drove us nuts.

And we loved each other.

I was a part of the “big kids” group. My older brother, me, my sister Liz. We were the first set of kids in the house. But we were followed, very closely, by the “little kids”. A baby brother, a sweet little sister, and another baby boy.

The “big kids” did our best to take care of the “little kids” as we all grew up in a middle class American family.

We were not perfect. We argued. We fought. We rebelled (although the big kids didn’t do it as well as the little kids). We did our best to take care of each other.

Life is never a straight line. Life is never the careful step-by-step that most of us hope we can achieve. Life is full of totally unexpected, out-of-left-field hits. All we can do is reach back into our pasts, into our lives, into our earliest selves, to make everything all right once again.

It doesn’t always work. But what else can we do?

I know that my family life has been 61 years of step-by-step. Sixty one years of trying my best to do my best. Trying to be the most loving and supportive family member I can be, while realizing that perfection is a myth.

Step by step.

We all do our best to be our best.

If we aren’t perfect, we are not to blame.

We’re only human after all.

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Every small step counts.

Jeez, what a jerk


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Do you ever have those days when you know, with absolute certainty, that you are a big fat jerk?

I do.

More often than I like, actually.

I mean, I try to be a good person. I try to be kind, to be generous, to be welcoming. I do. I try.

But sometimes in the middle of a visit or a social event, I step back just long enough (like 2 seconds) to listen to myself, and I have to think, “Oh, my God. What a JERK.”

Sometimes it’s because I’m not listening well enough. Sometimes I catch myself doing that awful, selfish thing. I sorta, kinda listen to the other person just because I’m dying for the other person to pause so I can respond.

Awful.

And then there is the whole “I know everything” syndrome from which I have suffered for years. I HATE people who answer every comment with how much more they know about everything than I do.

No kidding. I can’t STAND that. I mean, maybe I mention something about making homemade ravioli and the other person immediately jumps into a long lecture about the proper ratio of semolina to whole wheat flour. It does not matter if that person lived in Tuscany for a year studying under a master chef. It still just plain pisses. me. off.

So why do I do the same thing to my own friends and family?

I don’t know.

The other day I had a rare and very treasured visit from two family members. Two wonderful women who I’ve loved for 40 years. Women who are kind, smart, funny, loving, and (thankfully) forgiving. We started to talk about the medical issues that face us in middle age. You know, aches, pains, insomnia….I should have listened. I should have asked how they were feeling. I should have commiserated and made supportive sounds.

Instead I launched into a stupid lecture about medical treatments, benzodiazepine dependence and the benefits of cannabis butter.

Seriously?

Even as the words were flowing like a backed up sink right out of my big mouth, I was thinking, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!”

Sigh.

I guess its a good thing to recognize my weaknesses and personal foibles. That way I can a) keep myself awake for three nights in a row telling myself that I’m a horrible person and am totally undeserving of friends and b) work toward being a better listener, friend, relative.

It also helps to put these thoughts into a little blog that is rarely read. That way I’ve thrown it out there, given it to the universe and possibly garnered a few supportive comments.

BUT: tell me the truth! Don’t you just HATE those know it all types?

 

“I Wish They Were Peanuts.”


Once long ago, when I was very young, I read a story about the great actress Helen Hayes. As the story goes, the young actress met her future husband at a party. Charles MacArthur was a playwright, and was as poor as she at the time. As the evening wore on, his infatuation with Helen grew, and he wanted to impress her. He poured a bag of peanuts into her lap, saying, “I wish they were emeralds.”

Many years later, well into a long and sometimes trying marriage, Charles walked up to his wife. He opened a bag and poured a pile of emeralds into her lap, saying, “I wish they were peanuts.”

At the time, all I thought was, “Oooooh, so romantic!”  I loved the simple symmetry of the gesture, although I really didn’t grasp its meaning.

Now, though? Now I understand.

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This year’s Christmas tree is all set up, and it’s a beauty. Tall, full, sturdy, fresh and fragrant. We paid more for this tree than we used to spend on a week of groceries back in our early days. Every branch features a treasured ornament. The tree is covered with strings of lights, all of which are lit. There are gifts all around the base and we have enough extra ornaments and decorations to cover every surface in the house.

Aren’t we lucky?

I know that we are! Our tree proudly displays ornaments that mark every stage of our lives. Vacations, the football years and the hockey years and the cute baby years. Family jokes, family reunions, favorite foods; it’s all there to remind us just how blessed we’ve been.

But you know what?

As I was putting on the ornaments this weekend, carefully selecting the right spot for each, I found myself tenderly looking at one of the oldest items in the Christmas box. I rubbed my thumb over the plastic frame, and rested the little circular image against my cheek, just for a moment.

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I found the cross stitch kit for this little ornament in a local thrift shop back in 1985. I was pregnant with my first child, and we had a little table top Christmas tree in the living room of our run-down apartment. We had shopped for ornaments, choosing a set of red satin balls and smaller white plastic balls with little sparkles. They were the least expensive items on display, and although they looked admittedly tacky in the store, on our little tree I was convinced that they were both elegant and lovely.

And although I have never been crafty, and am unable to knit or sew, I sat up at night cross stitching this ornament and one other just like it. As I slowly, carefully moved the needle in and out of the white fabric, I thought about my baby. I thought about our future, and how we’d make a family. I felt as if I was filled with light.

I stitched, and I dreamed, and I felt my baby moving inside me. I hung the little plastic ornament on our tiny tree, and looked at the sparkling lights. I lay down on our old sofa in that drafty apartment, rested my hand on my belly and smiled.

Life was perfect. We had so many dreams about to come true. Everything good lay ahead of us.

As I hung the old cross stitch on the tree the other night, I almost wished for those heady days of the cheap plastic ornaments. Almost.

‘I wish they were peanuts.’

 

Why the Media Reminds Me of My Puppy


I love my puppy Lennie. He is sweet, energetic, full of love. He is cute. He’s silly. My granddaughter even said to me this week, “You need a new Lennie. This one is crazy!”

I mean, the nutty little fool chases his own tail every time he gets excited! That’s pretty crazy.

My sweet little canine buddy is also…how shall I put this?….Um…

Welp. He’s as dumb as a rock.

How do I know this?

I know it because sometimes I want to get him down into the backyard so that I can close the gate and keep him away from the slider doors while I’m having company. When I need to move my happy, loopy, goofy little guy out of the way, I step out onto the deck and pretend to throw a ball into the yard. I yell, with great excitement, “Go get it, boy!!!!”

And my darling dopie head runs down the stairs and chases….nothing.

See why this dumb-de-dumb-dumb behavior makes me think of the media?

You don’t???

Well. Think about this. North Korea has tested the most dangerous weapon in the past 50 years. The Special Prosecutor is closing in on our President. The Secretary of State is about to be fired.

And what’s going on?

The President spends his time tweeting out pure unadulterated bullshit. He actually retweeted several posts from the British version of the KKK. Videos that are fake. Videos that are ugly. Videos that only the most ignorant knuckle draggers among us would watch. Videos that try to convince us that all Muslims are dangerous criminals.

And what happened?

The media raced down the steps after the big old fake bone. They’re covering it in detail, giving it all kind of legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve.

The media isn’t talking about the mega rocket aimed at our hearts. It isn’t talking about the horrendous tax “reform” package that will make the rich even richer.

Nope. The media, lead by CNN, is chasing its tail all around the muddy backyard. Barking at the idiocy of those stupid, ignorant, pointless videos.

So.

This is why the media in our country, at this insane moment in time, reminds me of my beloved but not very bright little dog.

Scary, right?

The Universality of Motherhood


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When I was a new mother, I felt sorry for every other Mom on earth. I felt badly for them, because they didn’t have MY little one to love. I felt sorry for them because I knew, deep deep down in my heart, that there was no possible way that they could love their babies as much as I loved mine.

I was a jerk.

OK, I was a jerk in the most life affirming way, believing that my kids were the most beautiful, most beloved little beings in the universe. But, let’s face it, I was a delusional, mother-hormone-crazy woman.

Now I know the truth.

Now I know that ALL mothers love their babies just as intensely and profoundly as I loved mine.

I know because I see it every day.

I leave my house every morning and drive for 15 minutes to pick up my grandchildren for the day. I wind through the little streets of our small community. I stop every day for the school bus that seems to inevitably be right in front of me.

So I have had many, many mornings to watch the moms in our community putting the kids on the bus. I’ve come to look forward to seeing them every day. I watch how they interact with their young children.

And I know that no matter who they are, they adore those sweet little munchkins heading off to school.

There is one Mom who has caught my eye this school year. She stand outside every morning, rain or shine. She looks to be in her late 30s or early 40s. She is round, in both face and form. He hair is dark, thick, and curly, like my daughter’s. Her skin is a light coffee color, and her eyes are wide and dark. Although I usually only see her as I pass slowly by the bus stop, I know that she spends these precious before school moments with her son. She looks at him. They grin at each other. One day I saw them dancing.

I have seen them standing in the humid mornings of September, gazing up at the yellow leaves above them. I’ve watched them hold each other under a big black umbrella on rainy mornings. I’ve seen him running around his Mom, grinning and calling something that I couldn’t hear. I’ve seen her laughing at him as he does.

And I’ve seen this woman waving, and waving, and blowing kisses as her boy climbs the steps of the big yellow bus and settles into his seat.

I’ve watched her stand with a hand shading her eyes as she waves him off to school.

And I know that she loves this happy little curly headed boy just as much as I loved my own first born. I know that wherever she goes after he gets onto that bus, she is thinking of him all day long.

I don’t know this woman. She wouldn’t ever recognize me. Still, I know that we share the universal bond of crazy pants mother love.

She probably feels bad for all the other Mom’s she meets, too. Thinking how sad it is for them that they don’t have her little guy to love.

 

What I thought was lost


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It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s cold outside. I’m home alone, resting, looking back, feeling nostalgic.

I started looking through old photos, seeing my three sweet kids when they were little. When they were home. And that got me thinking about my two little grandchildren. The happy little souls who spend every week day here with me. And I was reminded of all the little joys that come with caring for children.

There are so many tiny moments every day that make me smile. Things I thought I would never experience again. Little things that I thought were lost to me once my own kids grew up.

But they weren’t lost at all! And I get to do them again now, treasuring every moment. Here’s a list of some of those little daily gifts.

  1. Brushing and braiding hair. Ellie’s hair is a miracle of shiny curls. I’m obsessed with it. I get to brush it at least once a day, then I ask her what style she wants and we chat about clips and hair ties. I love those five minutes every day! hair
  2. Bath time. I don’t get to do this every day, but when we get muddy, or we fingerpaint, or someone is learning to eat bananas on his own, I fill that tub with warm water and bubbles. And I get to hold warm, clean, wiggly little bodies wrapped in soft towels. I get to kiss the water off of little noses. Back breaking, for sure, but still something I am so grateful to still enjoy!towel
  3. Watching babies and toddlers eat. Maybe it’s the Italian in me, but there are few things that give me a warmer feeling than watching babies eat. This is especially true, of course, if I’ve cooked whatever it is! I never thought I’d have the pleasure of serving up nice warm, buttery pasta to a little one again! Johnnyspoon
  4. Holding a sleeping baby. If you’ve ever done it, you know why I missed it so much after my babies grew up. The soft, even breathing, the warmth of the skin against my cheek, the scent of baby hair. When I hold my grandchildren as they sleep, the years disappear. The world disappears. selfie sleep
  5. Those “I love you” moments. What can I say? My heart….A smile, a hug, a little hand on each of my cheeks. A little head resting on my arm. “Oh, my Nonni. I love you so much!”

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What a lucky do-over!

Caviar on a POTATO CHIP?!


No.

Nope. Nuh, uh.

I am NOT going there.

What the hell is wrong with foodies these days?

I used to be a devotee of all those wonderful food magazines. Some of my very favorite recipes (“John’s Apple Cake”…mmmm) came from Gourmet or Bon Apetit. Back in the 80s, both magazines used to be full of useful cooking tips and interesting recipes.

Recipes that you’d actually want to eat.

No longer.

I subscribed to one of these food magazines a few months ago and I am completely bewildered. I suspect that the editorial board is now filled with geeky High School kids in skinny jeans. The kind of kids who spent 45 minutes arranging each piece of hair to look perfectly messy in the hippest possible way.

I’ve gotten used to monthly photo shoots of some allegedly famous chef whipping up a little something for 5 gorgeous friends in a “rustic” beach house. Everyone is smiling while sipping cocktails made of bamboo shoots, tequila and some kind of Peruvian berry. The chef poses with one hand on his bony hip while stirring the “quick sauce” he’s making out of duck blood and mango peel.

Or something.

I can usually flip through the pages, gag a little and move on.

Not. This. Time.

I just opened my new copy of Bon Apetit and what should meet my jaded old eyeballs but this:

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This horror is supposed to be the latest thing. It is expensive caviar on a potato chip.

Quelle horreur!

This is NOT cooking, folks. This is not good food. This is just plain yucko.

So I’m skipping the rest of this issue. I’m going back to cookbooks I can trust. The ones with easy to follow recipes using real food, preferably cooked by chubby women who know their way around a nice butter filled pie crust.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! May your crusts be flaky but your relatives not so.

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My old standbys.